Twins and Sleep – Part Three: Co-Sleeping

*This is Part Three of a Six Part Series.  Please take a moment and read Part One, which covers bedtime routine and Part Two, which covers sleep training.*

Co-Sleeping in an incubator in the NICU

Co-Sleeping in an incubator in the NICU 5 days old (Jacob front, Esau back)

Holding hands sleeping at 11 days old (Jacob left, Esau right)

Holding hands sleeping at 11 days old (Jacob left, Esau right)

Co-Sleeping at 10 Months (now)

Co-Sleeping (napping) now – 10 months (Esau front, Jacob back)

Co-sleeping is a very important decision that needs to be made by all parents of twins.  This post will explain the pros and cons of either decision and which decision I made.  This post does not by any means suggest that either decision is better than the other and I am not advising for or against co-sleeping. That decision must be made by each parent of twins.

What is Co-Sleeping:

Co-sleeping is a term given to several different methods in relation to sleeping babies. Some people refer to having your baby sleep in your room in their own crib or bassinet as co-sleeping, others consider co-sleeping to be sleeping in the same bed as the baby (also called bedsharing), but with twins when we talk about co-sleeping, we are talking about both babies sharing the same sleeping structure; be it a crib, bed, bassinet, etc.

There are many different ways you can co-sleep twins. They can be placed head-to-head, feet-to-feet, or side-by-side. Some opt to not co-sleep at all, either putting their babies in separate cribs or putting a divider in a single crib between the two babies.

Benefits of Co-Sleeping:

There are many benefits to co-sleeping and you will see in any nursery or NICU where there are twins, they will be in the same bassinet or crib or even sometimes the same incubator.

Twins have already spent nine months in close quarters with each other. Nearing the end of that nine months, it’s a really tight space and researchers have actually discovered that twins can and often will touch each other while in the womb.  It would make sense, then, that after they have left the womb, being next to their twin sibling is very soothing and comforting to them.

Newborn twins when put together will instinctively move towards each other, touch each other, and even suck on each other’s hands.  It was not uncommon to see Jacob and Esau holding hands while sleeping even when they were just a few days old.

Research has shown that twins who sleep together have better vital signs, breath better, sleep better, grow better and if one is not as healthy, he/she will recover better when beside their wombmate.  Twins will also regulate each other’s body temperature when next to each other.

There have been studies that have also shown that twins who sleep together are less likely to wake each other up.  I am not sure if this is true, but I do know that when one of my boys wakes up, he could be whaling right beside the other’s head and the other will not even stir!

There are also theories that twins who co-sleep have better social skills as older children, but this has not been studied closely enough as of yet to determine validity.

Reasons to Avoid Co-sleeping:

Despite the many physical, health, and emotional benefits to co-sleeping your twins, there are also some serious elements to consider against doing so.

Firstly, it is important to note that the AAP (American Academy of Pediatricians) advise strongly against co-sleeping twins as there are increased risks to the safety of the babies and they believe that there is an increased risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) when babies sleep together.

There are also concerns that one baby can suffocate the other either by being too close or by rolling on top of their sibling.  Also, although there are studies that prove that infants sleeping side-by-side regulate each other’s temperatures, I have also read that they can increase each other’s temperatures to dangerously high levels, however have seen no actual studies to support this.

Ways to Compromise:

Some parents of twins chose to compromise between the two options.  This is generally done by co-sleeping twins until they are approximately three months of age, when they begin to become more mobile by rolling.  Others have kept them in the same crib, but placed a divider between the two of them.

Our Own Sleeping Arrangements:

I have co-slept my twins right from day one.

I started with the plan of keeping them in the same basinet in my room until they were six weeks old and then moving them to separate floor beds in their own room.

At six weeks, I did initially follow through with this plan, but my boys would not sleep unless they were together, so I compromised and pushed their beds together and they always end up right beside each other to fall asleep.

Yes, there are risks that I am taking and yes, I have had to respond to a couple muffled cries now and again, which usually means one is lying on the other, but it has never been a serious issue for me.  I move them, they cuddle back up together and go to sleep.  I find that the benefits have much outweighed the occasional having to go in and roll one off the other.

There is no question when you see my boys sleeping together that they enjoy each other’s company and they are distraught if I try to separate them.  They will be sleeping together until they day they tell me they want to sleep separately and I am okay with that.

I would love to hear from others about what you thing.  What are your sleeping arrangements and how do they work for you?

Next week I will talk about twins and napping, so please make sure you follow my blog and you will receive the post right in your emails!